In 2021, All Metals Fabrication (AMF) determined that ISO 9001 standards and certification were something the company wanted to do. The journey forward has been both challenging and empowering. From the very beginning of the initiative, AMF’s executive team wanted to make sure that the company was building processes and systems that were our own. In other words, they did not want to open a book or hire a consultant to simply put favorite recipes and token processes in place—they wanted to incorporate and utilize systems and processes that were specific to our company, culture and customers.
In short, the executive team wanted the ISO 9001 certification to be an outward symbol communicating to the world an inward commitment of doing the right things, the right way.
AMF does not want to be one of those companies that brandishes the certificate while still turning out poor workmanship or poor performance.
AMF’s commitment to quality and performance stands on four important pillars:
- Delivering on time
- Manufacturing parts, pieces and fabricated assemblies right
- Conducting all our business transactions profitably
- Constantly seeking for improvement
These four succinct objectives, of course, have inside them many layers of important business functions, goals, services and KPIs that guide our endeavors.
Delivering on Time
Several years ago, my wife and I went to a custom frame shop to order some large, custom-sized picture frames to create an extensive display of various family pictures on a large wall adjacent to the staircase in our home.
We spent an hour with a wonderful gal who helped us decide shapes, sizes, materials and colors. We were excited as we finalized concepts. We set a date to pick up the custom-made frames and gave her a down payment for our expected goods.
I still recall her negotiating a due date that would work for both my wife and her shop. She wrote the date down and circled it for emphasis on her company’s order form.
A few weeks passed—finally the date approached to pick up the frames. My wife needed my help, along with my truck, to pick them up. I asked my wife, “Did you call to make sure the frames are done?” Her response, “No honey, I am sure they are done. The girl promised us that they would be done. Remember, we have that family party next week—I want to make sure we get them hung before everyone comes!” I reluctantly agreed to go with her but in the back of my mind I was silently nervous, based on my own “job shop experiences” that they would not be done.
Of course, as we all know, the frames were not finished as promised. My wife was frustrated, angry and incredulous when we left, with sincere apologies from the framing company in hand—but no frames.
I, however, was far more sympathetic. I realized and knew from experience that on-time delivery in a job shop is not an easy thing. Good intentions abound, but the bulk of orders, dates, emergencies, mistakes, etc., make it extremely challenging for even the best companies to deliver successfully and consistently on time.
Excellent customer service is an oft-repeated theme in the business world—on-time delivery might be the best form of customer service imaginable.
How does this personal experience translate to delivering on time in metal fabrication?
Job-shop metal fabrication requires multiple processes and assemblies. Most of our parts include some form of laser cutting, either flat sheet laser or tube laser, deburring, forming, welding and finishing. Every one of these general processes has their own subsets of microprocesses. For example: flat sheet laser cutting requires part programming, part nesting, machine setup time, machine run time, part checking, part stacking and part moving.
AMF utilizes a combination of ERP software and standard, bi-weekly meetings to discuss lead times, product flow, bottlenecks, potential challenges, lead times, etc. AMF had these processes in place before our ISO quest, but now we are adding as part of the standard, metrics and feedback to track on-time performance at each workstation, recognizing that on-time delivery starts way before fabricated parts land on the customer’s dock.
Ultimately, getting back to the story about my wife and the picture frames, I recognized back then that our saleswoman had every intention of delivering the completed frames to us on time. She wanted them done on time and she wanted us to be thrilled customers when we came to pick them up.
Stuff happened—stuff happens everywhere and in every company. However, AMF is committed to unwinding that bad stuff and finding daily resolutions to maintain on-time delivery commitments.
Manufacturing Parts, Pieces and Fabricated Assemblies Right
AMF fabricated and manufactured an intricate “skeleton” of stainless steel angle parts that made up the backbone of a very complex, geometrically-shaped building—New York City’s Transportation Hub.
AMF was selected as sub-contractor on the job because we had the unique combination of architectural and manufacturing experience and expertise.
Still, even with our company’s experience, we were quite concerned that the components we supplied, with an incredibly complex and vast array of parts and pieces, would all be correct, which included not only the fabrication of the parts but the labeling as well.
We were informed, and intuitively knew, that large cranes and big crews of manpower would be onsite to install everything.
If any part was wrong or mislabeled it would stall an enormously expensive team of construction workers and equipment and cost tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in delays and back charges.
Of course, with that type of pressure, AMF applied an all-hands-on-deck approach to every detail of the job. Gladly, the job was very successful and went forward without a hitch.
In some ways, this is an overly dramatic representation of parts needing to be done right and on time. On the other hand, it is not overly dramatic that our customers naturally expect that their parts will be delivered on time and correctly, no matter the size of the job.
From a managerial philosophy, AMF strongly believes that our valued staff comes to work intent on doing a great and wonderful job. No one comes to work to deliberately mess up. Yet, we know people make mistakes—or better said—people use processes that let them down and allow for mistakes.
AMF has long since had processes and a culture in place that celebrates hitting the “all-stop” button when there seems to be a problem or something is not working. Still, reaching for ISO 9001 accreditation is driving quality process control and performance to even higher levels, which is exactly what we want.
We cannot overstate how important it is to us, as an organization, to avoid rejected parts on our customers’ floors, but it goes much deeper than that. Inspecting quality to avoid sending bad parts is not enough. We are reaching deeply into our processes to fabricate quality into our work. Ultimately, most would agree that inspecting for quality may be a safety net, but creating processes for quality is the launching pad for long term, and, more importantly, sustainable success.
AMF is fiercely committed to this type of process control to keep our customers happy and to keep our bottom line black.
Conducting All Our Business Transactions Profitably
The first two objectives, delivering on time and manufacturing high quality parts, are, without question, mainstays in manufacturing and business success. Profitable business transactions, as we discussed in our overall objectives, created some stir inside our organization. Can we announce to the world, particularly our customers, that we intend to transact our metal fabrication business profitably?
After lengthy discussions over a period of weeks, we finally concluded as an executive team that yes, we can make that a core pillar of our company’s ISO objectives and goals.
Corporate profits, particularly for very large businesses, seem to take continual heat in today’s media and society in general. Politics aside, AMF’s executive team discussed at length that small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy, are much more vulnerable to downturns and cash deficits than large corporations who seem as if they could never fail.
To maintain a place of employment for all of our valued employees and in order to maintain a commitment to our customers of constantly and predictably performing to their expectations and requirements, AMF must not shrink from the objective that our work must be done profitably—a goal that all small businesses work to accomplish—but not a goal that is typically stated in such an overt manner.
AMF understands economic conditions; frankly, all small businesses do. There is a market always full of competitors that work to win business based on several factors, including price.
AMF will continue to work tirelessly and relentlessly to provide the best price we can for our customers. We do that by investing in technology, best practices, training and trust. We do that by never gouging, never taking advantage and never allowing short sightedness to cloud our judgment with long-term relationships.
We have over twenty-five years of track record to back these claims and recognize the profound trust it takes, even when including safety nets like contracts and purchase orders, to conduct business in a win-win relationship where both parties can be profitable and both parties can enjoy each other’s success.
All of this goes a long way to reiterate that as one of our ISO objectives, AMF will do our work profitably.
Constantly Seeking for Improvement
Of all the objectives listed above, this one “hits the hardest,” as today’s teenagers would say, meaning, this one may well be the very most important.
Ultimately, in life and in the fabrication business, we are creatures, cultures and organizations that want to—and need to—get better. We must find a way to fight for improvement every single day.
AMF’s culture of continuous improvement is set deep in the foundation of our company. In 2021, AMF received and implemented over five hundred improvement ideas. How do we do this?
- We utilize a weekly, continuous improvement meeting with a committee of employees from every part of the business.
- We track improvement suggestions and implementations.
- We post our improvements throughout the company and we talk about it non-stop.
Continuous Improvement is a journey with no destination. By natural law, it never has an end. It just goes and goes and goes—there is always something that can be done better; there is always a better, smarter, faster, more productive way.
This is more than a program for AMF—and it must be. It is a culture; it is in the fabric of our hearts and even writing about it brings a passion and energy that we believe you will intuitively sense.
AMF was founded on a dream and prayer—all of those against us thought it could not be done and proudly proclaimed it so. We fought back with this one principle—never give up and never stop finding a way to get better. It was not written on paper or stated proudly on a postered wall, but it was written in our souls.
In recent years it has begun to more formally take shape. It will continue to grow and build, particularly as part of our ISO policy. Indeed, we are improving our Continuous Improvement process.
Ultimately, this will make AMF a business and company that all our stakeholders can love. We strive to be an organization that our customers, vendors, employees, communities and neighbors respect, like and enjoy.
We have a caption, although not pervasive as it should be, that states, AMF fabricates metal and forges mankind.
That is our goal; really, we want to simultaneously get better and help make the world around us better.
There are many words and ideas coming together in the list of these ISO 9001 objectives. In summary, this is a journey that we started many years ago and we are now putting an official stamp on our process. It has a name and a certification, but AMF is not ISO 9001. We are a company of great folks, doing great things. We are sealing it with a stamp that the world understands, but we hope, in the tiny details of every transaction inside and outside our company, that you see it, feel it and believe it, whether or not we apply the stamp. If you do not, we have failed despite the platitude.
As we close in on this goal, we recognize that there will never be an end to overcoming weaknesses in our organization and seeking to be better. We are grateful for any pearls of feedback and hope that our journey will bring you as much joy and prosperity as it does for us.
All Metals Fabrication
Metal Fabricator for Architectural, Industrial and OEM Industries